For the Dolores Middle School wrestling team, a recent trip to the Middle School State Tournament in Denver, April 3-4, yielded an individual state champion, a top-15 team finish and lots of smiles.
Leading the Bears was eighth-grader Ethan Long, who won all five of his matches and was crowned state champion.
The 171-pounder did not allow a point throughout the tournament, won four of his five matches by pin and finished the season with a 32-0 record. He was named the "outstanding wrestler of the tournament" for the upper weights.
"(Winning state) was definitely a great experience," said Long. "When you get up there, the whole arena is filled and it's pretty fun."
"Ethan did everything right that it takes to be a champion," said Dolores head coach Leo Garand. "He lifted, he ran, and he was at every workout. With his work ethic and his focus, he could win multiple state championships at the high school level."
Asked about the key to his state championship run, Long divided credit amongst his coach, teammates, family and God.
"One of the main reasons that I won state is the coaching the Leo has put me through," Long said. "I get a lot of talent and skill from God, and he helps me with wisdom and guidance. My biggest driver and my biggest supporter has been my dad and (my siblings) have helped me get better."
Also making the podium for Dolores was 125-pound eighth-grader Skieler Grooms, who won who three of his five matches overall.
Eighth-grader Cameron Chavez won four of his six matches and placed eighth in the 75-pound division.
"Cameron was awesome considering that he was fighting the flu all week," said Garand. "I was really proud of him."
Jeffery Crites, Zane Eichner, Zander Eichner, Eugene Dunston and Shraden Chistopher also competed in the tournament and helped Dolores 11th out of 163 total teams.
As for the team's plans for the summer, Garand said that he plans to take Dolores wrestlers to several tournaments, including the Aztec Warrior Classic, and a team camp in Pagosa Springs.
"We will do a lot of wrestling in June," said the Dolores coach. "We have a lot of good young wrestlers and the future of our (high school) program is certainly bright."